Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms #11 (135-150)

packerToday’s post concludes the reading of the book of the Psalms accompanied by Psalms, vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. The final psalms, probably mostly post-exilic, call on all nations and peoples to worship and submit to the rule of YHWH., I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

135 begins the last section of the Psalms, which focuses on praise and worship of YHWH, with a call to praise YHWH because of his sovereignty over creation and the nations, and his choosing of Israel as His special people. 136 is an antiphonal, audience participation hymn that commands worshippers to praise YHWH for his "wonders" done in creation and in the nation's history. 137 is a prayer that justice will be done for the brutal treatment of Jerusalem by Babylon and Edom.

The LORD’s election of Israel is the demonstration that all the gods are idols. That is the theology of the hymn. The LORD chose a people to be his own special possession, defended them from the powers of the world, and gave them their land as a heritage. The LORD rules over all and performs his sovereign will, but his people are his special possession. Their story is the clue to the basic truth about the universe, the clue to who reigns in heaven and on earth. Psalm 135, 461

God’s covenant love/loyalty is always expressed through his creation of the world and the creation of a people. His “loyalty” to the creation is manifested by his sovereign control over it and how he provides for the peoples of the world through it. God’s “loyalty” to his people is manifested as his “grace,” for only by his grace are his people able to survive as a unique people on the face of the earth. That is why God’s people must “give thanks to the God of heaven.” Psalm 136, 463

Lest one forget, this prayer for retributive justice was answered by the psalmist’s God. The “eye for an eye” code was a demand for justice, not revenge, and justice was finally given to Babylon and Edom. Psalm 137, 472

Psalms 138-145 are written by, for, or possibly, in the style of David. They mostly deal with asking for God's help in times of trouble and persecution from enemies. 138 praises God for deliverance from an enemy who has received justice from God. 139 celebrates God's vindication which is sure because God knows us, is with us, is always able and is righteous and just. 140 expresses the psalmist's confidence that evil men and deceptive words would not triumph in the end. 141 is a prayer for deliverance from the temptations that come from being surrounded by evil people. 142 is a desperate prayer for deliverance when all human hope is gone. 143 pleads with God, based on his mercy and compassion, for renewal of fellowship and God's direction, guidance and provision.

There is here “a fine blend of boldness and humility … boldness to confess the Lord before the gods, humility to bow down before Him.” It is as if he is “in your face” with the pagan “gods,” but “on his face” with respect to Yahweh God. Psalm 138, 474

I can be the lowliest of slaves, and yet the Lord knows me when nobody else cares. He knows my name. I can be “attacked” by enemies or rejected by my own family or friends. He knows my name. Though falsely accused, I know God knows the truth, and he knows me better than I know myself. Psalm 139, 476

The reality of the covenant relationship with God was a source of hope and courage to the devout in Israel. And since the psalmist had known God’s protection in a day of battle now past, he could take hope that in time to come, none of the evil plans of evil men would prevail. Psalm 140, 486–487

But in his daily contact with the ungodly, the psalmist may be tempted to compromise his loyalty to Yahweh, even as the apostle Peter denied he knew Jesus. He does not want this to happen, but he is aware of the temptation, and so the prayer. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil (v. 4a). Do not let my heart be deceived by sin’s allure nor be tempted by the delicacies the wicked appear to have in abundance. Psalm 141, 490

The psalm certainly speaks to the heart of all who have despaired at times to the point of thinking that no one really cares and who feel they are praying from prison. Psalm 142, 495

One of the basic concepts of God, the one that underlies all others, is this—he is the God (the only God) who reveals himself and his will to man. He talked with Adam in the garden of Eden (Gen 2:15) and subsequently revealed himself to countless others, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses, through whom his will for his people was clearly delineated. It is God as teacher, instructor, and guide to whom the psalmist “lifts up his soul” for guidance in his hour of need. Psalm 143, 501

Psalms 144-145 praise God as the true king and protector of the nation who fights their battles and provides for their needs. In 144 the psalmist takes role of a warrior-king who recognizes God's role in the battle and asks God to protect his people and provide for their needs. 145 praises God for His compassionate, just rule.   

Yahweh who has trained the warrior king sustains him, defends him, shields him, and if need be, rescues or delivers him. This is his confidence. This is his trust. This is his cause for praising Yahweh, who subdues peoples under me. Psalm 144, 506

God’s greatness is seen in the glory of his kingdom and dominion. God’s goodness is manifested in detail by his grace exhibited in his support and care for the downtrodden and destitute. Psalm 145, 515

Psalms 146-150 close the book Psalms with one more burst of praise of YHWH as sovereign over creation, provider of blessing to His people and worthy of praise. 146 celebrates the happy state of those who trust and are committed to God's ways, despite exile and trouble. 147 celebrates the fact that the God who is sovereign over nature is very concerned for His needy people and meets their needs generously. 148 calls on all creation in the heavens and on the land and sea to praise YHWH and for Israel to put the words to the chorus. 149 calls on all Israel to praise God for the restoration from exile and to bring justice to the nations that threaten them. Psalm 150 closes the Psalter by calling on all human beings to praise the Holy and Glorious Creator, YHWH, all the time, wherever they are and by whatever means that they have.

Psalm 146 finds God to be praiseworthy for three special reasons. First, he is all-powerful, having made heaven and earth (v. 6a). Also, he is dependable; he “remains faithful forever” (v. 6b). In the third place, he is the divine helper, the hope of all and especially of the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the blind and bowed down, the alien, the orphan, and the widow (vv. 7–9). Psalm 146, 517

The very God who is sovereign over the creation is also sovereign over the salvation of his people. He is building up Jerusalem, gathering the exiles, healing the brokenhearted, and binding up their wounds (vv. 2–3). God has always delighted in those who fear him and put their hope in his covenant love/loyalty (v. 11; cp. Ps 33:18) rather than human (military) power (v. 10; cp. Ps 33:16, 17). Psalm 147, 526

From the heights of the heavens to the depths of the sea, all that exists is by the hand of God—or by the spoken word of God (v. 5)—and is called upon to praise him (by simply being what they are! Psalm 148, 529

The theme of the psalm is the praise of the LORD. Israel is to “rejoice” in him (v. 2) because he takes “delight” in his people (v. 4). His praise is to be in their mouth (v. 6). Is it not because he is their glory and honor? Psalm 149, 535

So the call is directed to all mankind. Yet it is also intensely personal—to “every one who breathes.” Every individual on the face of the earth is called upon to make the praise of God a matter of the highest priority in his or her life. Psalm 150, 540

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